We return for the third (and hopefully, please God, final) time to the world’s longest chapter. Christian has just threateningly informed his girlfriend that she is in BIG TROUBLE for making plans to visit her mother without asking him first, and now they return to the table:
Mom has gone all out—best china, best crystal—for Ana’s and Kavanagh’s benefit. I hold out a chair for Ana; she sits down and I take a seat beside her.
So, a few things. This habit that Christian has of referring to Kate by her last name is clearly vindictive and nasty. It’s meant to make her sound like some kind of opponent instead of a normal young woman protecting her friend. What makes it a bit odd, though, is that Christian supposedly regularly works with Kate’s Dad — whose last name is also Kavanagh. Wouldn’t calling Kate “Kavanagh” be a little confusing? You know, unless it’s also a way of reducing Kate to simply being her father’s daughter, as opposed to an independent person.
Also, notice how Christian makes a big show of treating Ana well around his family (pulling out her chair — what a gentleman!) — right after he shouted at her in the hall. These are the deliberate actions of someone who has done this many times before.
Mia asks how Christian and Ana met:
“She interviewed me for the WSU student newspaper.”
“Which Kate edits,” Ana interjects.
I will come to miss these small moments where Ana doesn’t treat Kate like garbage.
“I want to be a journalist,” Kate tells Mia.
In this economy? But fine. We’re in Narnia, so whatever.
My father offers Ana some wine while Mia and Kate discuss journalism. Kavanagh has an internship at the Seattle Times, no doubt set up for her by her father.
So there you go — she’s “Kate” to Christian when she’s chatting with another woman, but she’s “Kavanagh” when she’s a privileged little daddy’s girl who’s only getting an internship because of her father’s connections. Rather than because, say, she edited the school paper and was the class valedictorian. And all of this from a guy who dropped out of college.
But beyond that... really? You’re going to sit here and judge people who trade off of wealthy connections, Christian Grey?
While the list of ways that Christian could be less awful are endless, his disdain for the upper class is especially strange. First of all because he was adopted — from a young age — into a wealthy family and seemed to have no trouble accepting all of the advantages that came with that, but second because he has spent all of his short adult life building and maintaining a level of grotesque wealth to ensure that he remains in said upper class. So where does his hatred of people who are just as privileged as he was and is come from? And it’s not like he’s some class warrior who fights for the poor — unless he can position himself as a white savior to starving black children in “Africa,” which is about the richest and whitest type of philanthropy there is.
Oh, but I forgot: Kate’s a woman so she doesn’t really deserve anything, and he’s a man so he “earned” his connections and seed money.
From the corner of my eyes I notice that Ana’s studying me.
“What?” I ask.
“Please don’t be mad at me,” she says, so low that only I can hear her.
Send me lots of wine and a teddy-bear because this book just gets more and more depressing.
“I’m not mad at you,” I lie.
Her eyes narrow, and it’s obvious she doesn’t believe me.
“Yes, I am mad at you,” I confess. And now I feel like I’m overreacting. I close my eyes.
Get a grip, Grey.
Yeah — don’t try to rein in your unreasonable, controlling anger, buddy. She might get dangerous woman ideas about personal freedom and happiness.
Kate asks to know what the two of them are whispering about — probably because whispering in the middle of a big family dinner is rude, and also since Kate can probably pick up on her friend’s discomfort. Three guesses how Christian feels about it:
“What are you two whispering about?” Kavanagh interrupts.
This is the second time that she’s been described as “interrupting” a conversation, even though there’s no indication that anyone was mid-speech. So in case it wasn’t clear before, Kate “interrupts” simply because Christian feels she should be granted permission to speak by him or Elliot:
Good God! Is she always like this? So intrusive? How the hell does Elliot put up with her? I glower at her, and she has the sense to back off.
Kate asks one question and Christian immediately thinks she’s the most difficult woman he’s ever encountered. Now here’s an extra dose of irony, though — Christian just implied that he managed to silence the evil Kate with a single withering look, and yet when Ana shruggingly says that they were just talking about her trip to Georgia, Kate responds like this:
Kate smirks. “How was Jose when you went to the bar with him on Friday?” she asks, with a brash look in my direction.
What. The. Fuck. Is This?
This is Kate not giving any fucks at all about your withering look, and is instead deliberately fucking with you. And it’s moments like this that make it clear that Christian absolutely picks the most downtrodden, introverted women he can find — because even the slightest hint of independence or willfulness is intolerable to him.
I’m going to warn you of a couple of things before I carry on. The first is that the rest of this brutally long chapter is seriously devoid of laughs. There are no porno wizards beyond this point, and we’re about to head into what might be the worst passage so far. I’m offering this warning because if you’ve found the material up to this point a bit depressing, you may want to skip over the next couple of quoted pieces. It’s up to you, but I promise that it’s not going to be fun:
Ana tenses beside me.
“He was fine,” she says quietly.
“Palm-twitchingly mad,” I whisper to her. “Especially now.”
So Christian acknowledges that she’s tense and is speaking quietly — he knows she’s nervous, even fearful. So he makes sure to justify those feelings of fear by letting her know he’s angry that she would dare have any contact with the opposite sex. This from the guy who still regularly goes for dinner with his former lover/rapist.
So she went to a bar with the guy who was trying to ram his tongue down her throat the last time I saw him. And she’d already agreed to be mine. Sneaking off to a bar with another man? And without my permission...
She deserves to be punished.
BDSM participants, feel free to correct me, but nothing about this feels kink-related. This just seems like an abusive, possessive, jealous man who wants to beat his girlfriend for “defying” him. And even if this did have the ring of kinky truth to it, him saying that she’d agreed to be “his” is kind of bullshit — because the contract has STILL not been signed.
What she’s agreed to at this point is to “try” the arrangement, but she’s pushed several times to finalize the contract and really nail down the rules so that they both feel safe to explore. He’s avoided doing that — on purpose. Keep that in mind for this next bit:
I’ve agreed not to go too hard on her...maybe I should use a flogger. Or maybe I should administer a straightforward spanking, harder than the last one. Here, tonight.
Yes. That has possibilities.
Ana’s looking down at her fingers.
Again, does this feel kinky to anyone else, or does this just come across as someone abusing their power in a very straightforward and very problematic way? I’m comfortable with disagreement if anyone wants to argue something different.
Mom has surpassed herself: chorizo, scallops, peppers. Nice.
Is that meant to be like a stew? In late May?
Christian’s mother gets a call, then returns to the table, and EL James treats us to a bizarre anti-vaxxer speech that would seem ludicrous in a normal book but in this case is a welcome break from the avalanche of moral bankruptcy:
“Another measles case.” Grace sighs heavily.
“Oh no,” Dad says.
“Yes, a child. The fourth case this month. If only people would get their kids vaccinated.” Grace shakes her head.
I’m conflicted about EL James not being the absolute worst person in the world at all times on all issues.
“I’m so glad our children never went through that. They never caught anything worse than chicken pox, thank goodness. Poor Elliot.” We all look at Elliot, who stops eating, mid-chew, mouth stuffed full, bovine. He’s uncomfortable being the center of attention.
Kavanagh gives Grace a questioning look.
Kate is all of us. Justice 4 Kate.
Also you have to love a rich white doctor bragging about her kids’ excellent health. Like no shit, lady — it would be weirder if your kids had been riddled with preventable diseases under your care.
“Christian and Mia were lucky,” Grace explains. “They got it so mildly, only a spot to share between them.”
Oh, give it a rest, Mom.
I mean, I know Christian’s an asshole to all women, and normally I would have a problem with him mentally chastising his mom, but I feel like discussing disease over dinner is gross, so I’ll allow it this one time.
What I won’t allow is any more of this bullshit:
“So, did you catch the Mariners game, Dad?” Elliot’s clearly keen to move the conversation on, as am I.
“I can’t believe they beat the Yankees,” Carrick says.
“Did you watch the game, hotshot?” Elliot asks me.
“No. But I did read the sports column.”
You really have to love the fact that EL James had so little to write about while re-doing this series that earlier she literally gave us a scene with Christian reading the sports paper to make all of this very important dialog dovetail so seamlessly.
“The M’s are going places. Nine games won out of the last eleven, gives me hope.” Dad sounds excited.
Yeah, this whole back-and-forth has been a real barn-burner. Also, Seattle people — does anyone call them the “M’s”? Ever?
“They’re certainly having a better season than 2010,” I add.
As does EL James, after exiting a hasty Google search of the terms “The Seattle Mariners” and “2010 season.”
Gutierrez in center field was awesome. That catch! Wow.” Elliot throws up his arms. Kavanagh fawns over him like a lovesick fool.
Uggghhh fuck you.
Christian’s mom asks Ana and Kate how they like their apartment, which means that Christian needs to tune them out because women chatter on and on about nothing important — unlike the men talking about that ol’ local sports team, which requires laser-precision analysis like “that one guy was good,” and “last year was not so good.”
Mom’s helper starts to clear the table. I still can’t remember her name. She’s Swiss, or Austrian or something, and she doesn’t stop simpering and batting eyelashes at me.
Many people have pointed this out before, but there is a deeply problematic issue with the way that Christian has no time for any women but Ana — because it’s meant to seem flattering that Ana is the only woman he has eyes for. But instead I can’t help but think that he has a suspicious dislike for ambitious, straight-forward, attractive women with personalities and instead seeks out women who are... not those things.
Anyway, Christian is bored because people keep asking Ana questions about herself, and he hates that. So in the middle of his mother asking Ana where she’d like to travel he quickly cuts her off by informing everyone that Ana likes London (because she can’t talk for herself) and then decides to treat himself to a fingerbang:
Placing my hand on Ana’s knee, I explore her thigh at a leisurely pace, her dress riding up as my fingers follow. I want to touch her; stroke her where her panties should be. As my cock rouses in anticipation I suppress a groan and shuffle in my seat.
She jerks away from me as if to cross her legs, and I close my hand around her thigh.
Don’t you dare!
Again, I’m going to say now that if this is all starting to get too grim and rape-y, it might be best to skip this particular entry. Because — particularly if you’re not familiar with the original book — things do get worse from here.
Mia talks about “the French” again — who are still the worst, in case you were wondering.
Then Christian’s mom treats us to yet another supremely confusing culinary experience:
Mom has cooked her signature dish, Beef Wellington, a recipe she picked up in London. I have to say it ranks close to yesterday’s buttermilk fried chicken.
WHERE IS THE SEAFOOD? It’s late May. You live in the Pacific North-fucking-West. It’s not to say that there is one fixed cuisine in this region, or even one particular type of food that all rich people are obliged to serve, but these menus are... incredibly odd for both the book’s setting and for the type of family that EL James is making the Greys out to be.
And, as someone who was raised almost entirely in the PNW, I’ve never had Beef Wellington. Which isn’t to say that you can’t get it here — of course you can — but again, none of this reads as authentic or realistic and I really think it isn’t that hard to figure out what people actually eat in other cities.
That said, I do love the idea that Christian’s mom could only have learned to make Beef Wellington in London. As though someone could only learn to cook food in the place where said food was conceived. “Oh, this paella? I made it after learning from Luis in Spain. Ribollita? Luca taught me in Sicily. Frito casserole? Mary-Beth in Utah.”
The other reason that all of the food stuff annoys me so much is that the PNW is kind of known (if you know it — which EL James doesn’t) as being a hot bed of health nuts. So the idea that a rich white doctor would serve dough-covered beef to impress company is just really, really unlikely.
No, none of this matters in any real sense, but it’s just annoying that EL James is consistently THIS lazy. The internet exists.
Ana tucks into her meal and it’s so good to see her eat. She’s probably hungry after our energetic afternoon. I take a sip of my wine as I contemplate other ways to make her hungry.
And this is why I focus on food. Everything else is just too gross.
Ana is eating heartily and listening to the banter. Everyone else has calmed down, and my family is being less weird. Why am I so tense? This happens every day all across the country, families gathering together to enjoy good food and each other’s company.
When did this turn into a Republican stump speech?
Am I tense because I have Ana here?
Am I worried they won’t like her, or that she won’t like them?
Both from the sound of it. But that’s... really, really clear from the text. So why bother including it?
Or is it because she’s fucking off to Georgia tomorrow, and I knew nothing about that?
It’s all of it. It’s obviously all of it. Stop inserting totally useless inner monologues that pose questions that don’t need to be posed — and then fail to answer them.
Mia takes center stage as usual. Her tales of French life and French cooking are entertaining.
But we hear none of them, of course. 6 or 7 lines about “that local sports team”? Sure. One single sentence where Mia describes her very exciting trip to Paris? Fuck it.
Just like with Kate’s valedictorian speech, you don’t really need to listen to a woman unless it’s relevant to a man.
Anyway, Mia “accidentally” slips into French while complimenting her mother on the implausible meal, and then Christian tells her — also in French — that she’s just spoken in French. Because even though the trip to France is Mia’s experience, the real focus here should be that Christian Grey — Dreamboat CEO and serial abuser — also speaks French. Because the French are terrible, but Anglophones who speak French are the best. But only if they’re men.
Anyway, even though Christian just had everyone in stitches by speaking some basic French — what larks! — he’s pissed and bored:
But by the end of dinner the tension is really wearing me down. I want to be alone with my girl. I’ve only so much tolerance for inane chatter, even if it’s with my family, and I’ve reached my limit.
Let’s be very clear: “inane chatter” is code for “anything women were talking about”.
Christian decides that enough is enough:
I also have to establish a few ground rules. We need to discuss her impromptu trip to Georgia and going out for drinks with men who are infatuated with her. I put my hand on Ana’s knee again; I need to touch her. Besides, she should accept my touch, whenever I want to touch her.
Fuck this guy.
I gauge her reaction as my fingers travel up her thigh toward her panty-free zone, teasing her skin.
It’s a vagina — or at least her vulva. You should know that, Lord of all sex.
Her breath catches and she squeezes her thighs together, blocking my fingers, stopping me.
Last chance to get off this awful train of rape.
Christian excuses himself and Ana from the table, under the pretense of wanting to give Ana a tour of the grounds. Dessert has not yet been served, which is unfortunately because I’m sure it would’ve been, like, Baked Alaska or Churros.
Outside, my mood plunges south as my anger surfaces.
A guy who pretends to treat his girlfriend well in front of other people but then immediate turns nasty when they’re alone? Just a kink you guys!
Panties. The photographer. Georgia.
The weirdest game of Clue ever.
We cross the terrace and climb the steps to the lawn. Ana pauses for a moment to admire the view.
Yeah, yeah. Seattle. Lights. Moon. Water.
I continue across the vast lawn toward my parents’ boathouse.
“Stop, please,” Ana pleads.
I do, and glare at her.
Seriously, last chance to get out of this recap.
Anyway, it turns out that Ana isn’t terrified of being dragged away from the party into a random secluded building, which she fucking should be, but instead she’s worried that he’s walking too fast and she can’t keep up in her high heels. So instead of allowing her to take off her shoes, he slings her over his shoulder and spanks her — all while yelling at her to keep her voice down.
“Where are we going?” she wails as she bounces on my shoulder.
“I need to be alone with you.”
“Because I’m going to spank you and then fuck you.”
“Why?” she whines.
SHE WHINES? She’s whining because she wants to know where she’s being dragged against her will, and why she’s going to be hit and then raped? Fuck you straight to hell, EL James.
“You know why,” I snap.
I have nothing but cold, quiet fury at this point.
“Please don’t hit me,” she whispers.
Yes, this is happening.
I don’t understand. I stare down at her blankly.
“I don’t want you to spank me, not here, not now. Please don’t.”
But... I gape at her, paralyzed. That’s why we’re here. She lifts her hand, and for a moment I don’t know what to do. The darkness stirs and twists around my throat, threatening to choke me if she touches me.
Is EL James really, seriously trying to diffuse the tension of Ana literally pleading with her boyfriend not to hurt her by saying, “Oh, but if she so much as brushes against him he’ll be paralyzed by THE DARKNESS”?
It’s like she wants to keep hitting a button marked “moldy cheese” to absolve herself of any guilt of having written this hideous book.
Fuck this dude, and fuck his hungry baby baggage.
Ana does touch his face, he feels mostly okay about it, they begin kissing, he tells her that he was turned on — and angered — by the fact that she thought she had the right to close her legs to him. She tries to explain that she’s wasn’t thrilled about being fingerbanged in front of his mom, but he’s still MAD AS HELL:
“You’re mad because I said no?” Her voice is throaty.
Or, more likely, her voice is filled with terror.
“I’m mad because you never mentioned Georgia to me. I’m mad because you went drinking with that guy who tried to seduce you when you were drunk, and who left you when you were will with an almost complete stranger. What kind of friend does that?
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Is he responsible for literally nothing? So it’s now Kate, Ana, and Jose’s fault that Christian chose to stalk Ana, take her back to his hotel room, strip her nearly naked, and then sleep beside her in his bed? All three of them should’ve known better than to “let” that happen?
And I’m mad and aroused because you closed your legs on me.”
And you’re not wearing panties.
Let’s not forget that she’s not wearing underwear because he took them away from her, and she didn’t want to have to ask for them back. But nothing is his fault ever.
My fingers inch her dress up her legs. “I want you, and I want you now. And if you’re not going to let me spank you—which you deserve—I’m going to fuck you on the couch, this minute, quickly—for my pleasure. not yours.”
“This is mine. All mine. Do you understand?” I slip my finger in and out of her, holding her, as her lips part with shock and desire.
“Yes, yours,” she whispers.
Yes. Mine. And I won’t let you forget it, Ana.
How does she not end up dead?
Anyway, they do indeed fuck for his pleasure — not hers’. After she asked him not to. Which... you could call something other than sex. If you were so inclined. He also doesn’t “let” her orgasm, but he has a great time. She’s told she has no say in the matter. So again... there might be a word for what he just did to her.
Mia then comes into the boat house and Christian cleans up quickly and guiltily. I assume this is meant to seem cute and naughty but everything’s just too depressing.
They head home, and Christian asks if she enjoyed herself:
“I think that you felt trapped into bringing me to meet your parents. If Elliot hadn’t asked Kate, you’d never have asked me.”
The level of self-awareness that she displays early on is extra depressing on a second read-through because you know how hard he works throughout the series to wear away her sense of independence and even her ability to think clearly.
Damn. She doesn’t understand. It was a first for me. I was nervous.
Yeah — why doesn’t she get it? You just got nervous and raped her. Why’s she being so uptight and selfish about it?
Then he offers up this world class negging:
“Anastasia, I’m delighted that you’ve met my parents. Why are you so filled with self-doubt? It never ceases to amaze me. You’re a strong, self-contained young woman, but you have such negative thoughts about yourself. If I hadn’t wanted you to meet them, you wouldn’t be here. Is that how you were feeling the whole time you were there?” I shake my head, reach for her hand, and give it another reassuring squeeze.
If she was actually strong and self-contained, he’d just write her off as a bitch. So don’t bullshit me, EL James.
Ana then “relaxes” and says she’s not actually sure that she’s going to Georgia, but admits that she does want to see her mother.
My anxiety surfaces. Does she want out? If she goes to Georgia, her mother might persuade her to find someone more...suitable, someone who, like her mother, believes in romance.
Or at least someone who doesn’t beat and rape people. Her mom’s weird like that.
I have an idea. She’s met my folks; I’ve met Ray; perhaps I should meet her mother, the incurable romantic. Charm her.
What a slimy fuck.
He asks if he can come with Ana to Georgia, she says no — because what the fuck — and then confirms that she really wants to be able to have some time alone.
Shit. She does want to leave me.
Or she wants some time alone, you psycho.
Ana is sad on the ride home, confirms that she wants “more” from the relationship than just kinky sex, Christian finds this annoying, and then they head back to his apartment to have more corny sex.
I grip the hem of her dress and in one smooth move pull it up and over her body to reveal the beautiful woman beneath.
“Ta-da!” I’m a magician.
HE IS ACTUALLY PORNO GANDALF.
Anyway, they start getting down to the business (it’s SO boring and I just want this chapter to end). Ana says she doesn’t want to “fuck,” she wants to “make love.” RoboChristian is confused. Then she asks if she can touch him, which he CANNOT ALLOW.
And, frankly, I’m fine with that. I’m fine with him having boundaries and I do think it’s fair to expect that she respects them. I’m just not fine with him — and the book — treating his boundaries like the biggest and most important trauma of all time, but then having him rape and abuse her under the guise of “BDSM” and calling her a whiny prude if she complains.
They cuddle instead, and Christian wonders again about something that we already know the answer to:
Why am I even letting her sleep with me? But it’s a rhetorical question: deep down I know the answer. It’s because I sleep better with her.
She’s my dream catcher.
She keeps the nightmares at bay.
Because everything is about him and his needs.
What’s gotten into her?
One evening at my parents’ and she’s expecting serenades and sunsets and fucking walks in the rain. That’s not what I’m about. I’ve told her this. I don’t do romance. I sigh heavily as I remove my pants.
But she wants more. She wants all that romantic shit.
She keeps your sad little moldy cheese baby nightmares away, but you can’t take her for a fucking walk? Wah wah wah you selfish prick.
Anyway, they talk more about his limits but he refuses to explain why he doesn’t like to be touched — which, again, is FINE. It’s fine for him to have his own boundaries, he just can’t violate hers’. But because this book is terrible, she offers him kink sex in exchange for information, because it’s important to establish that Ana never actually wants this type of sex — she just uses it as a way to get closer to him. Which is... I mean, it’s horrible, but everything is horrible so it’s all kind of moot at this point.
In the playroom chest I retrieve the toys I want and contemplate lube as well, but on reflection, and judging from recent experience, I don’t think Ana will need any.
Everything is terrible.
Then Christian promises to put some ben wa balls inside Ana and spank her, and that’s where the chapter ends even though the scene will continue but it’s midnight and the day is over and this garbage chapter system is the absolute fucking worst and I want to set my keyboard on fire.
Thank you for joining me.
Do return again, won’t you?